Sunday, January 20, 2019

ELMO and WESLEY

Copyright (c) 2019 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



Elmo and Wesley
By R. Peterson

          It was 6:23 AM. We were working an all-night stakeout on the far end of Donkuff Road. Three days earlier, the Clabber City Police Department had received an anonymous tip of person or persons unknown jaywalking not once but at least twice on the deserted state highway. We and three other teams were working around the clock to catch the perpetrators. As senior Sergeant Inspector John Elmo, I rode shotgun, manned the two-way radio that connected us to headquarters and two backup helicopters and let my partner, Junior Patrolman Tom Wesley, do the driving.
            I knew it was serious when our dispatcher Molly Hubbard’s voice broke over the dash mounted speaker. She was a hard as nails veteran with more than thirty years under her service belt. This morning she sounded ready to cry. Vicious crime coming at you on a daily basis will do that to a person! An elderly resident of Clabber City had awoken to find almost half a pound of margarine missing from her Kenmore side by side refrigerator. The woman’s nine year old granddaughter had threatened to die if her granny didn’t bake her a birthday cake! I told Wesley there wasn’t time to reverse as I turned on flashing lights and a siren and we drove right through the Farmers Insurance billboard we’d been hiding behind.
            The 1969 Ford Fairlane squad car had a souped-up v-eight engine but it still wasn’t fast enough. The two helicopters working with us on the stake-out were going to beat us to the crime scene. We were coming to a place where the road narrowed just before three miles of switchbacks that dropped the highway down to the city. Bad luck seems to pick the worst possible times to show its ugly face.
A flat-bed truck driven by a farmer I knew and loaded with almost four tons of crated eggs was just entering the bottleneck. Delbert Adams is blind as a bat when it comes to rear view mirrors, and if he was listening to Tootsie Pearl on the radio he’d never hear our siren. I told Wesley to get as close as possible and I leaned out the window and shot out two of his right side tires with my service revolver.
I’ll say one thing for Delbert … he don’t give up! He fought the wheel for almost an eight of a mile, with arthritic hands and with us nudging his back bumper, before he crashed through the guard rail and plummeted into Lucifer’s Ravine. I made a note on my clipboard to ticket him for obstructing traffic and see if there were any unbroken eggs washed up on the river bank.

-------2-------

We sideswiped two patrol cars already on the scene, just missed a TV News van and slid sideways across the McClary’s front lawn until we were finally stopped by a picket fence enclosing a vegetable garden. Two rookies were already stringing black and yellow crime scene tape around the entire property as dozens of neighbors looked on. Captain Wolfe stood on the front porch and glared as I scraped broken pumpkin shell off my shoe. “What did you two do … stop for breakfast?” he thundered. I shook my head. There was no sense in arguing with the captain. He was in crisis mode and until this heinous crime was solved … he was going to be the Devil to work for.
            He filled me in on the basic details. There was no forced entry and the alarm system had not been triggered. I stopped for a moment to gaze into the kitchen. The lock on the refrigerator appeared to be broken … but not recently. Everything else looked normal.  Two words inside job flash danced in a large open area of my brain … but it was too soon. I filed away this information in a dark corner of my cranium and forgot it.
Mrs. McClary was in the living room crying and being consoled by two social workers. She looked just as I’d imagined she would, middle aged with theatre rows of hair-curlers and a large rump roast hidden somewhere near the back door under a floral pattern housecoat. “I know this is not a good time,” I apologized. “But if we’re going to get your butter back I’m going to have to know exactly what happened.”
The social workers both glared at me but they moved back so I could do an interrogation. The tall one was definitely a dyke, the short one could be straight … or her lover. I started in right after introductions. “When was the last time you saw this … margarine?”
“Yesterday afternoon …when I took a baked potato from the oven …” The words came out with a gush of tears but one of the social workers, Butche I think it was, handed her a tissue. I’d spied a tiny bread crust on the glass coffee table when I sat down and I casually slipped it to Wesley to put into an evidence bag.
“Was that the last time anyone saw … it?”
“It wasn’t an it!” The other social worker, Noreen, spat. “It had a name … Mazola!”
After a moment Mrs. McClary continued.
“No, my husband comes downstairs and checks the refrigerator every two hours during the night as always. He said he didn’t see the … Mazola … at the 4AM check but he thought it must have gotten pushed behind the crème cheese or perhaps the mustard. We live in a nice neighborhood … you don’t expect things like this to happen to people like us.
I couldn’t help but notice a framed eight by ten photo of the butter substitute proudly displayed on an end table and in another family photo on the wall. Mazola sported a shiny yellow waxed-box and looked fresh from a store. “Do you have any recent photos of Mazola Mrs. McClary?” She opened her mouth and looked aghast!
“We always meant to book a photographer,” she sobbed. “Something always came up. Frank had to work late … or junior was coming down with the sniffles.”
“That’s quite alright,” I told her. “We have a very talented sketch artist on call for situations just like this!”
“Do you think I’ll ever see my margarine again?” She looked so hopeful I was tempted to lie … but I didn’t. “It’s hard to say …” I paused looking for the right words. “Less than half a pound that’s hard to track … margarine, especially less than two sticks, is often repackaged and sold on the street … to unsuspecting buyers … sometimes from China.”
“What kind of world are we living in?” Butche stood up furiously waving her muscular arms and knocked Wesley out of his chair. The smell of the stains under her arms reminded me of a backed up sewer and her lips had an oily sheen.
I decided to focus on other things.
“Where is your husband and your … son?” I asked Mrs. McClary.
“Frank is upstairs in bed … bad heart you know. Billy is in his … room … probably playing video games. When I was his age I was outside riding my bike … running errands … going to the store for my mother.” Mrs. McClary suddenly broke into hysterical fits of sobbing.
“You self-serving beast!” Butche shouted at me. “Don’t you think Edith has gone through enough?”
“I don’t understand,” I stammered.
“What do mothers send their bicycle riding children to the store for?” she was looking at me like I had the brain of a lobster. “For bread, milk … and yes … margarine!” She slammed her fist so hard on the coffee table my clipboard stood up and tried to run.
“I’m sorry,” I stammered. “I didn’t mean to be insensitive!”
I waited until Edith had collected herself.  “Would it be possible for me to speak to your husband and your son?”
            “I don’t see what good that would do,” Edith moaned.
            “Strictly routine,” I told her. “Sometimes people remember things that others don’t.”

-------3-------

            Frank McClary was no surprise. He looked half-weasel with a long nose sharp enough to pick safety deposit locks … and legs that could become brooms if you only had the straw. Frank was content to let his wife do all the talking and limited his speech to yes, um huh and that’s right as beady black eyes darted about the room. He looked starved as he wiped his fingers on his pants and I soon forgot about him.
            The stairs groaned in misery when Billy forced himself down them. He was wearing extra-large sweat pants that were bubbled and bursting at the seams and a huge, stained T-shirt from a potato chip company that looked as if it could do double duty as the main sail on an eighteenth-century British man of war. He had at least two acres of pimple marshland on the left side of his face and a forest of stubble growing on the other. He opened his mouth and a river of droll flowed down all six chins and pooled at the bottom of the stairs. I turned to see what King Kong was gaping at and caught a frantic Wesley trying to hide the plastic evidence bag containing the lone bread crumb behind his back.
            “This better be good,” the monster ape said licking his lips. “I don’t go AFK without a reward!”
Getting information out of Billy was like trying to pull teeth from a crocodile. It was hard because you didn’t want to get too close. Noreen was suddenly as giddy as a school girl … trying her best to be noticed by the big-boned youngster. I borrowed a cigarette from Wesley. He rolls his own and never seems to run out of smoke. I stared at the social worker for almost an hour. Somewhere Australian music was having a walk-about on a radio … The Seekers Georgy Girl! I guess I was wrong about her … love is sometimes insanity driving a stolen, pink Buick with a ceramic dog barking in the trunk. It was getting hard to count all the colors.
When the sketch artist arrived, I went out back to look around and get some air. I tripped on crime scene tape. There was the usual broken and rusted appliances on the ragged lawn … a tricycle with bent wheels … I bet I knew who that belonged to. The helicopters were both in the air … already starting the largest search in Clabber City history. A bearded  goat stared from behind a clump of raspberry bush. And something else … something that made my nose twitch and my stomach growl … the smell of baking bread … coming from a neighbor’s house.

TO BE CONTINUED ….


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sean O'Brian part 4

Copyright (c) 2019 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



Sean O’Brian
Part 4
By R. Peterson

Three months later Gin Lou was becoming an expert driver. He traded his fedora for a White-Sox baseball cap. He thought it made him look more American. Sean thought he looked even more Chinese … but he didn’t rag him on it. “Who’s next on the list?” Sean asked as the Packard rolled down Water Street after visiting the docks.
“Tony Italian food restaurant,” Gin Lou said. “Lefty make big trouble … say Tony not pay double … Lefty become owner!”
Frank “Lefty” Esposito was just another cheap hood trying to move in on McGooganheimer’s territory.
            “You want bring soldiers?” Gin Lou loved to talk on the two-way Motorola that one of the boss’s boys lifted from a cop car. Sean had even caught him crooning Ted Weems songs into it when he thought no one was receiving.
            “No,” Sean said. “I’ll talk to Tony later. We’ll see if we can cool Frank down.”
Gin Lou shook his head. To Sean cool meant to put on ice … something you did to dead fish. Sean had also used Lefty’s real name and that meant a funeral was coming. There was going to be violence. Gin Lou slowed down. It was always better to think things through before a raid. He ended up driving around the block a couple of times … while they worked things out.
            Frank Esposito’s hideout/brothel was in the back rooms of a laundry. There were plenty of Chinese out front … cleaning, ironing and folding; Gin Lou would fit right in. Sean waited in the car while Gin Lou walked in Wing Mow’s pretending to look for a job. Five minutes later, a police car with two officers inside parked half a block down the street as lookouts. Sean nodded to the men. With Capone in federal prison, the Chicago police now worked for all the gangs.
Gin Lou was playing stupid. While inside the laundry he opened a door and looked into the back rooms. One of the laundry workers quickly pulled him back. Ten minutes later he was back in the car. “Wing Mow is friend of father,” he said. “Lefty has slaves his whole family. All daughters work in brothel. Most sons dead. Wing Mow say great dishonor … and want die!”
            “How many soldiers?”
            “Two left corner two right corner … have guns but not hold in hands.”
Sean smiled as they got out of the Packard and opened the rumble-seat trunk. “Which side do you want?” Gin Lou looked both ways down the street before they took Thompson machine-guns out of a special made violin cases. The cops were purposefully looking the other way. Each of the circular drum magazines attached to the 45 caliber automatic rifles held one-hundred rounds.
“Man on left side very bad to Chinese girl,” Gin Lou said. “She very young!  He make dance naked.”
“We’ll see if he’ll dance to the song we play him,” Sean said.
When the guns were ready, Sean pulled out two flour sacks with holes cut for their eyes along with two wide-brim floppy cowboy hats and they slipped them over their heads. The head coverings were painted so they looked like they had been splashed with blood.
            “Why we wear mask?” Chin Lou said. “Lefty men all dead … Chinese no talk police.”
            “It’s all part of the show,” Sean told him.  “Things like this still get around even if they’re not in the papers. The first thing Lefty’s boys are going to see when we kick open the door is two monsters. That’s why I always leave one crawling … he will do more damage to our enemies by telling stories than we will!”
Sean and Gin Lou waited for a school bus filled with children to go past. . Before its splash of yellow vanished around the corner, Sean had a vision of his dead mother telling him to stay in school. “Are you ready Tonto?”
            “Yes, Kimosabe!”

-------2-------

            Most of the Chinese laundry workers were already fleeing silently out the front when Sean kicked open the back-room door. A young Chinese girl about ten years old was dancing nude on a table where men were shooting craps. The Chinaman almost laughed. Sean was right the look of horror on their faces reminded him of a monster movie. Gin Lou sprayed the two men in the corner as they were reaching for their guns. Blood, bone, guts and expensive shredded silk spattered-painted two walls. Sean swept his gun from left to right starting just inches from the stunned girl and moving around the room. She was screaming, but her voice was lost in the roar of the gunfire. The men clustered around the dice-table dove for cover, most with bullets punching button-holes in their custom made suits just as a gigantic three-hundred sixty light chandelier crashed to the floor. A stairway on the back wall led to rooms above. Bullets whistled past Sean’s cheek. He felt the heat burn his skin. A man stood on a landing pulling the trigger on an automatic pistol. Two more doors opened and half-naked men poured out … some had weapons.  Gin Lou turned his gun on the stairs where two support beams held up the upper level The landing collapsed just as the first man emptied his gun. Clouds of smoke, wood splinters and burning lead filled the air. An upright standing oil lamp a remnant of another era fell and started a fire. Neither Sean nor Gin Lou stopped until their magazines were almost empty.
Bodies lay piled in the wreckage as if a bomb had gone off. A bloody fat-man dragged himself across the littered floor with his hands. Sean stepped on his fingers and then rolled him over onto a carpet of broken glass with his boot. It was Frank Esposito. “Don’t kill me,” the man begged.
            “This might be your lucky day,” Sean told him. “We usually leave one fish swimming as a kind of advertising …”
            “You sons-of-whores,” the man hissed. “I’ve got connections. When Nitti hears about this … you’re both dead!”
Gin Lou turned his gun on a man struggling under the overturned table but didn’t fire. The moaning man grabbed the naked Chinese girl by the ankle and she kicked him. Sean noticed the bruises on her skin for the first time. “Looks like your luck just ran out,” Sean said as he stared at Lefty. There was something about violence that Sean liked. The person getting punished just had to deserve it. He finished firing all the bullets in his gun.

-------3-------

            Sean left Gin Lou to talk to the laundry owners. He offered them the same deal he’d offered hundreds of other businesses in Chicago: Protection in return for a twenty percent share of their company profits.  There was no threat involved. The business men and women were free to reject his offer without reprisals. What they got in return was relief from the mobs that drew every last drop of blood from their victims and a group of hard working and very connected associates who looked after their own in a business-like manner. Almost all of McGooganheimer’s associates thrived, especially Sean.
 It wasn’t until the Packard disappeared around the corner that the police car started. The hit would be minimized and blamed on a rival gang. The controlling mobs had leaned hard lessons from the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929. The damage to the laundry would be repaired. Twenty bodies would be weighted and dumped in the East River to keep sensationalism out of the papers … and nobody talked. Booze was now legal and profits had to come from other places. McGooganheimer was a great teacher and Sean an apt pupil. “A Smart lawyer can steal more in a day than a crook can in a year!” The old man’s voice was a never ending echo in Sean’s mind.

-------4-------

            Sean parked the Packard just behind the Church of the Divine Light. He had driven aimlessly for hours – never leaving the city. It was near midnight and a cold breeze skittered from Lake Michigan. Sean buttoned his coat. There were no clouds and a Gibbous moon illuminated the graves. Ava O’Brian’s headstone was near the back of the pristine cemetery. Father O’Malley was good for his word. Sean’s mother’s name and the dates of her birth and death were engraved deeply in solid granite next to his father. Bunches of shamrocks were just starting to open on each side of the stones. Sean picked one of the young clovers and held it to his nose. The scent reminded him of his too-short childhood.
            Ave O’Brian danced across the tiny kitchen floor while the family sang “Lift MacCahir og your face, brooding o'er the old disgrace when Black Fitzwilliam stormed your place … and drove you to the fern.” Sean and his father both stomped their work boots and laughed when she made a fuss over the mud they’d tracked in. There was bread baking in the oven and the smell was making Sean delirious. “Wash-up … I’ll not have two pigs snorting around my table while we live in this city,” she said as she returned with a broom. She swatted Sean playfully on his trouser bottom when he turned toward the wash basin. “Someday you’ll live in a fine house …” her eyes were dreamy. “You’ll not be hiding from a man come to collect the rent.”  She dropped to her knees to wipe up the last crumbs of dirt. “You listen to me now and do what I say!” Sean’s father at the basin next to him gave him a wink as the woman behind them rattled on.
            “I will mother. I promise …” Sean looked around. He was alone in the cemetery. He slowly walked back to the Packard.

THE END ???





Sunday, January 6, 2019

Sean O'Brian part 3

Copyright (c) 2019 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



Sean O’Brian
Part 3
By R. Peterson

          “Our territory is expanding,” McGooganheimer said as he handed Sean a fistful of bills. He reached into the drawer behind his huge mahogany desk again and pulled out more money. “A little something for your friend,” the mobster murmured. Sean nodded and a grateful Gin Lou stepped forward to accept the cash. “I’m going to need you to start driving where you’re going.” McGooganheimer closed the drawer and Sean breathed a little easier. He knew the biggest crime boss on the east side of Chicago kept several loaded weapons in there and was never reluctant to use them.
            Sean and Gin Lou stared as their employer stood up, lit a fat hand-rolled Cuban cigar rumored to cost over a buck each and then strode toward large floor to ceiling windows. He moved easily in spite of his enormous size. The top floor office in the forty-nine story skyscraper had a magnificent view overlooking South Water Street and Lake Michigan. “I’ve arranged for one of my associates to supply you with a car.” He flicked Sean a business card and Sean caught it and stuck it in his pocket without looking. The custom made silk suit Sean wore was a little large … he was still growing, but it did make him look older. “You’ll need a driver’s license,” McGooganheimer said. “How old are you?”
            “Almost fifteen,” Sean lied.
The fat mobster laughed. “No, you’re seventeen,” he said. “Anybody says different, you tell them to come talk to me.”
Sean nodded.
            “You know where the Department of Motor Vehicles is?”
            “Yes,” Sean told him.
            “Be there before lunchtime,” McGooganheimer said. “Ask for Gloria.”
The fat man waved his arm while he stared out the window his signal that the meeting was finished. Sean and Gin Lou both put on the hats they held in their hands and turned toward the door. They both stopped when McGooganheimer spoke again. “You’re a bright kid and I gots to know I can trust you,” he said. “So no lies to me … okay?”
Sean took his hat back off. “I’ll be fourteen in April,” he admitted.
            “Anything else?”
Sean barely hesitated. “The raid on the Oasis Café was a sham, faked by me and Gin Lou,” he said. “McCain’s men were never involved. I needed a job and I wanted to work for you.”
McGooganheimer stood with his back to them for a long time. When he turned he was smiling. “Let’s keep this secret between us shall we? Some of my trusted soldiers find out I know … they’re gonna start having bad dreams. Now get out of here!” he ordered.
-------
            Gin Lou released his breath when they walked toward the elevators. “Me think we both go for swim in river!”
            “We probably will,” Sean told him as he pushed a button for the street-level floor, “but I don’t think it will be today.”

-------2-------

            The Chicago DMV was on the other side of the city. Sean and Gin Lou took a taxi. Sean was amazed by the lines of men waiting for soup kitchens to open. As the Great Depression worsened, men from farms all across the mid-west poured into the big cities looking for jobs. Makeshift shelters, mostly tents made of scrap cloth and paper littered most vacant lots and covered much of the city’s park area. They were called Hoovervilles in honor of outgoing President Hoover. President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt would take office on March 4th. but it was still only January 30th.
            The March of the Swiss Soldiers finale to the William Tell Overture blasted on the radio. The driver reached to turn it off but Sean told him to leave it on. “I not know you like big orchestra song,” Gin Lou teased him from the back seat.
            “I like this one,” Sean said. “It gets my blood pumping.”
Both boys were surprised when the music turned out to be the introduction to a new western radio program. A masked man and his Indian companion were stopped on the road into town by two sheriff’s deputies. Sean and Gin Lou both laughed when the two got away.
            “I like when bad guy gets away.” Gin Lou grinned.
            “I’m not so sure they were bad,” Sean said as the taxi pulled up in front of the DMV office. “Sometimes people are not what they seem!”
            “This are true words … Kimosabe!”
Sean laughed. “Why did you call me that?”
            “Maybe you not bad guy?”
            “Did you know that Kimosabe means soggy brush in Navaho?” Sean asked.
Gin Lou shook his head.
            “And that Tonto means stupid?”
            “How you know so many things?”
            “School,” Sean said. “… and life is the best teacher.”

-------3-------

            The woman behind the desk at the department of Motor Vehicles laughed when Sean said he needed a driver’s license. “You don’t need a license to ride a bicycle,” she smirked.
            “Can I speak with Gloria?” Sean made his voice extra polite.
            “If you think you can get me in trouble with my boss you can get the hell out of here right now!” The woman stood up and pointed toward the door. “Both of you out of this office before I call the cops!”
Sean turned to Gin Lou and smiled then he screamed as loud as he could. “Gloria! Gloria! … Glo ….ria!” The furious woman came around her desk and as just about to place her hands on Sean’s neck when a door burst open behind her. “Ruth, what’s going on?” A middle aged woman adjusting glasses that had fallen down her nose looked around the room. “Who wants me?” she asked.
            “These two are trying to con me into …” Sean cut her off. “McGooganheimer sent me,” he said. “I’m supposed to ask for you …”
Gloria ushered both boys into her office. “When someone comes to see me I expect to be notified,” she told her subordinate. “If it happens again you will be looking for a job.” Then she closed the door.
            “We need driver’s licenses,” Sean told her. “McGooganheimer said you would help us.”
“Both of you?” Gloria looked like she was trying not to smirk. “Then I’ll need you both to write down your date of birth and some other information on these forms,” she said as she handed each boy a pen and sheets of paper. “If you’re both say seventeen…” She smiled as she looked at a message pad next to her phone. “The year of your birth has to be nineteen-sixteen.”
            “Thank you,” the two boys said at once.
            “It’s almost lunch time,” Gloria said moving toward the door. “I’ll arrange to have the photographer stay behind and process your photos.”

The Department of Motor Vehicle employees were just coming back from lunch break when Sean and Gin Lou left with their Illinois State driver’s licenses. Ruth Lemmon glared at both boys. “I didn’t know film could be developed this fast,” Sean said looking at his black and white card.
            “It magic, Kimosabe,” Gin Lou told him with a huge smile directed at the furious clerk. “Hi O Silver away….”

-------4-------

            Sean gave the business card to the taxi driver and both lads were astonished when the cab stopped in front of a Packard dealership. The boys were admiring a new Super Eight done up in a deep-metallic champagne-violet paint when a salesman rushed over. “Easy there,” he scolded. “Don’t touch the vehicles! This car is worth more than your daddy makes in a lifetime!” He pulled a cloth from his back pocket and began to polish the hood … muttering under his breath.
Sean handed the salesman the card McGooganheimer had given him. “Not my daddy,” he said. Sean noticed the writing on the back for the first time but didn’t bother to read it … but the salesman did. “This is for a used car,” he said. Sean shook his head. An instant after a phone call the salesman was all smiles. “What kind of car are you looking for?” his voice was like honey dripping from an overturned jar.
            “I like this one,” Sean said. “But without your greasy handprints on it!” He pushed the man away who had been leaning on the hood. “You got keys?”
When the salesman scrambled away to an office to come up with a set of keys Sean turned to Gin Lou. “You think you can drive this?”
Gin Lou stared at the luxury car with wide eyes. “Show what pedals do,” he stammered. “I can make car turn.”
“You better lean fast Tonto,” Sean told him as he polished the hood with his own handkerchief. “There’s lots of bad guys in this city.”

-------5-------

            The first stop was a music store; a speakeasy was located in the basement with its own rear entrance. Sean asked the girl working the floor to speak to the manager then he and Gin Lou looked at an assortment of string instruments. They heard a door open and a piano playing somewhere below … then the door closed. “What do you want?” A heavyset man wearing a dirty apron came up the stairs. He looked like he’d been cooking some kind of greasy food and smelled like a brewery. “I asked for the manager,” Sean told him.
“He’s busy,” the man said. “Deal with me … or go home!”
Sean turned his head, aware that the fat man was moving-in too close and pretended to admire one of the violins. “How much …” Sean never finished. He stuck out one foot and then seized the man by the collar with both hands and pulled him forward. The three-hundred pound giant hit the floor with a crash that made dust fall from the ceiling. “… is your life worth?” The fat man moaned and was just starting to stand when Sean broke a violin over his head. Two men ran up the stairs in response to the racket. “Get your busy manager up her now,” Sean glared at them. When they left, he kicked the blubbering man in the head. “I asked you a question!” Sean said.
The fat man struggled to get the wallet out of his pants pocket. Sean snatched it out of his hand and tossed it to Gin Lou. The smiling Chinese immigrant took a fistful of bills out and then flung the empty wallet at the cook. His fingers fanned the bills once like he was dealing cards. “Three-hundred twenty-six,” he said.
            “Let’s hope your life is worth a lot more than that … the next time I visit,” Sean spoke to the floor.
The well-dressed manager came up the stairs with what looked like a sixteen-year old farm girl wearing a rumpled flapper dress following obediently behind. “What the Hell?” he stammered as he saw his bouncer lying on the floor.
            “I’m here to collect the rent,” Sean told him.

-------6-------

            “Three-thousand is not bad for an afternoon of work,” Sean used his key to open the Packard’s rumble-seat trunk as Gin Lou placed two empty violin cases on the floor.
            “Why you take cases … no music play?” Gin Lou said.
            “In a few months prohibition is coming to an end,” Sean told him. “The streets are going to be different. There’s going to be a fight for new opportunities … only the strongest will survive.”
They left the girl wearing the flapper dress at a bus station with one-hundred dollars.
For the first time in months, the sky above Chicago was without a breath of wind. The stars peeking from behind a dark curtain of clouds looked like the lights from an enormous stage not of this world. They listened to Ethel Waters sing Stormy Weather on the radio. Gin Lou turned up the volume. A frozen rain was falling softly. The Packard’s wipers sounded like a jazz drummer dusting his snare in perfect time. “We need other talents to fall back on if our charm and intelligence should fail us,” Sean told his grinning driver. “Turn here, I know a shady merchant from Italy … that will sell us music lessons.”

TO BE CONTINUED …